I had a doctor’s appointment Wednesday afternoon that kept me from heading to Dad’s sooner. Don’t worry, I’m ok, but I wasn’t even seen after waiting 75 minutes, so I left. I began to pack and slowly debate what I would need if I decided to go to Phoenix on Thursday morning. I weighed the emotions and memories of prior visits against what the future held in love and educational opportunities.

I took long enough to leave San Diego that Dad called to check on my decision. I left the ACE manual and practice yarn, the five-year-old laptop and bright yellow boots. I grabbed the dog and got on the highway. This wasn’t my favorite drive east as I see the damage my species is doing to the environment, but I stuck through the sad cows, the empty land and full roads (obviously my car only adding to the issues) and arrived in time to pick up Caroline from her fourth day at her new job.

We stopped at Lou Malnati’s for dinner and took the outdoor option — heat on my left and a cool breeze on my right with no sweater on. Caroline and I split a thin-crust deep-dish that neither of us finished. I got to reading Arbitrary Stupid Goal, the yellow book with a little pink cover, by Tamara Shopsin and learned about her family friend Willy. More importantly, she told me to dangle the carrot just far enough ahead to keep going forward and allow myself to share the joy I find along the way.


I would finish this memoir, reviewed on NPR, reading at night before bed as while in transit, with Caroline, she read A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century, the part about the chaos that was the Black Death, that with the help of the panicked population helped to kill a third of Eurasia or an estimated 25 million people. I only heard about five percent of the book, and though history repeats itself, it’s definitely worth the read.

Dad with his laptop, me with a book, and both of us with a coffee had our props set about on the table while we would spend hours each day in conversation — from silly to sweet and subliminal to savvy — and always satisfactory. Brinn joined us for lunch at Chengdu Delight, a new experience for him, and a chance for me to see Dad’s mentoring from another perspective — agreeing with the self-improvements and book/song/documentary recommendations but accepting the fraction-of-a-moment decisions that have life-altering implications in the other direction.


The three of us (Dad, Caroline, and I) would spend part of the weekend immersed in the fascinating, but speculated history of the Teotihuacan and the exhibit at the Phoenix Art Museum that shares some recent finds of the last decade from 2,000 years ago. We learned what it took in the two-and-a-half years behind the scenes, from conception to display, from tiny support structures to lifting over 4,000 pounds safely (for the art and movers) after ensuring the museum floor can handle the load.

Doug, a preparator (one who helps build and arrange displays), was our guide for the members-only event on Friday night and we were lucky to meet Mark, standing security by the door, on our way out. Mark is only 21 but has the knowledge gained from another decade of life already which he shares a bit about working in different countries and learning about their cultures before suggesting a book, from his collection, and then saying goodnight.

We walk into the house and I find an empty bottle of lens cleaner on the floor with no lid because Sparky has taken it out of the bag and was chewing on it in his bed. He seems to be ok and had spilled some water and the laundry basket with no other accidents in our absence. It wasn’t until midnight that the Mogwai (the gremlin, not the Scottish post-rock band) turned into a rumba (synonym for “party” in northern Cuba) on legs, ensuring his people were waking every hour.


Saturday’s breakfast was special, not just because Caroline tried a new Mediterranean-inspired dish at First Watch and shared her bread with me, and not because I paid for it as a gift, but because this couple that I’m dining with has made it happily to their 25th wedding anniversary and still stare googly-eyed (the amorously adoring and dorky expression) at each other in anticipation of the next quarter century of their lives that they get to spend together sharing foods, moods, and views.

We went back to the museum Saturday afternoon for another perspective of the Teotihuacan: City of Water, City of Fire exhibit, gaining a limited viewpoint from the docent’s tour. We had more questions for Mark, a very smart and inspiring individual to meet, who had been standing in the back. Caroline and I checked out the ultra-contemporary fashion in a gallery upstairs that has layers of fabric piled on mannequins with looks from the runway to the streets with a touch of Japanese overly pink to Arizona garden variety.


Going down the stairs I noticed a man on the wall in a swimsuit. He’s not physically hanging there, but his friend Ragnar Kjartansson from Iceland had painted him 144 times in six months going for simplicity and repetition. This is also the goal in his nine-screen video installation of The Visitors as each screen shows a musician singing in a different room of a farmhouse in New York for the hour-long piece.

Lunch at Joyride Taco House has flavorful food and a superficial crowd. Dinner, hours later and after the sun has long gone, would be much more inducive to relaxing in the atmosphere and delighting in the buoyant joy of our waitress Cali who made a better impression on me than the vegetables; though I wasn’t given a cake-like slice of salad with a chocolate frosting amount of finely ground pepper like Dad who ensured her and the manager of Claim Jumper that he felt the same way about her customer service.

We drove to the Heard Museum for the rare opportunity to see the Yua: Henri Matisse and the Inner Arctic Spirit exhibit — masks and art from the Yup’ik tribe from western Alaska and the paintings from the French artist — at the only venue where this collection will be together. This isn’t the first time the Heard is able to host a unique exhibit, getting to be the only stop in North America to present the Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera collection during the summer of 2017, that I saw in May, while on a world tour.


Matisse was inspired by his son-in-law’s mask collection and dedicated enough to his passion that even while bedridden he came up with a new method to continue drawing and found a muse in his night nurse who would become a great influence. This is the first time some of his pieces have been shown in the US and is a past due reunion for some of the masks that have been separated for over a century as some are destroyed by fire or left to rot after they have served their purpose in the Yup’ik dances.

I’ve been to less than 1/100,000th of Alaska and 1/1,000,000th of Canada so I am definitely no expert but I can appreciate the perspective this gives me when I wonder how the heck am I ever going to see it all — I’m not, and most people aren’t going to find themselves in the outer reaches of our civilizations when given the opportunity to explore this great planet. Thank you to all the people who made this peek into another culture possible and who inspire me to join all museum notifications within a ten-hour drive radius so I can gain a better interpretation and respect for the world around me.


I brought up the size of the northern tundra to introduce how I felt when looking at the tools and art of those regions adorned with the local fauna of walrus, orca, seal, and albatross among many other species of birds and fish more common in this cold climate culture. I’m used to just seeing women and children in parkas rimmed with snow around their faces to represent such a varied landscape and getting to see them wearing masks of the spirits of the sun, moon, and wind surrounded by swan feathers was a treat. My favorite is the symbiotic pair of wolf and caribou, each mask only a half of each to form one face.

Anyway, the Sonwai: The Jewelry of Verma Nequatewa exhibit in another room didn’t hold Caroline and I’s attention for as long, but we took a look around at the Hopi’s shiny 30-year collection of bracelets and bolo ties filled with coral, turquoise, sugilite, opal, abalone, and 18k gold, extending any of these items out of my price range. Lunch is at Otro Cafe with a roasted corn cob appetizer and a cotija flapjack dessert to share. It’s been a while since I’ve come up with a combination of my own. I need to get back to experimenting with ingredients in the kitchen.

Sparky has kept us up again and Caroline will skip her morning run while Dad and I go for lunch early at Gil’s on Monday. We thought the food would keep us awake, but the guacamole and waitress (accosted for not looking her age, but complimented on her ability to reset her life) would bring a nap for Dad and an 80-minute slumber for me after realizing I was still on the same page of a book for half an hour.


I sat across from Dad in the coffee shop, chilly and half asleep, wondering why my cold brew was half ice. We wanted to introduce Caroline to the lunch waitress, her second day on the job, but she had already gone home. This didn’t stop us from going back for dinner and lingering in conversation before getting back to the house where I could have another long phone call with Caleb while getting some steps (this time not in the rain).

I grabbed my clothes and the four books I will borrow before coming back upstairs for coffee and Sparky on Tuesday morning. I will leave a day early grateful for the time together and to show that appreciation by letting them sleep tonight, sans Sparky, as they look forward to another 25 years of marriage. More coffee for me, gas for the car, and red cabbage fields for the view looking a deep purplish black in the rain and fog which adds to the beauty of the drive to San Diego.

*Phoenix, Arizona, Maricopa County, US in Second Week, First Month, (20) NineTeen

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Family Photos in the 80s


Mom, 16, in the middle with Virgil Sidders, her stepdad on the left with his two kids, and Elaine Louise Baker Clark, my grandma, about 44, on the right.



Grandpa, Gerald Clark, 48, with second wife, Joyce, 46.

moms gma

Edith Ethel Allen (Clark), great-grandmother, in her 60s.

alice thomas 1989

Alice Jane Thomas (Clark), great-aunt, 49.

aunt marlene

Marlene June Clark, great-aunt, in her 30s.

Gary Clayton Clark, great-uncle, 1956-1974.


Taken for church directory: Eleanor Marianna Ulrich Kurchoff Burke, 78, my 2nd great-aunt (my dad’s side), with husband, Kenneth Myers Burke, 82.


Anita Marie Ahlquist (Clark), aunt: Dec. 82 and Mar. 83 in her 20s (left)
Lois Elaine Laplant (Clark), aunt: Senior ’82 and basic training in Orlando, FL ’82 (center)
Wanda Prater (aunt from marriage): in her 20s (top right)
another aunt from marriage — either Kim, Cindy, or …


Jeremy Jennings, 8 in 1986, no idea

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Fall of Dreams


I woke in the middle of the night and grabbed my phone to jot down what I could remember from my dream. The jolt of movement and the light woke Caleb who suggested I put these notes on my blog… like I did in 2012, so here they are from the fall of 2018.

Aug 24 – I’m at an event near a playground and talked to a possible movie star.

Sept 30 – I’m kidnapped and shown a good time until I’m poisoned in a hotel room. It burns my insides, makes me scream, and I’m semi-paralyzed. One of the guys, instead of leaving me to die, takes me to a doctor or veterinarian to save me and I think we fall in love, though somehow I end up at a house with a guy who dug a pool outside a store so he could rob it and the owner fell in.

Oct 5 – I was doing laps in a pool and got out to use the diving board with the end covered in plants and a beautiful lizard tried licking my foot.

Oct 6 – Some little boy wanted to hang out with me. I was looking forward to cuddling with grandpa and watching his favorite cartoons.

Oct 10 – I went to a grassy area outside of an emergency room to get bit by a python species of snake, twice on the leg, and it made me feel numb with a fast heartbeat. Someone else did it with me.

Oct 12 – I am eating a burrito while having a bird comb (run its beak through) my hair.

Oct 15 – On a ship’s deployment and a superior lets her people destroy property because they can order a replacement next month. I pet a girls hair, that reminds me of a rabbit, while she’s handcuffed to a chair and tell her about the ones I used to have.

Oct 25 – I sell a girl a CD that has Ms. Jessica written on it, so I ask her to return it and she shows me her deep freezer and then friends come over and one has the idea of mixing the themes in the room. She’s holding a bloody bag and there’s a close-up of a rat biting something.

Nov 1 – I ride my bike to a house where Uncle David can tell me how poorly I parked. The kids jump in the pool and the mom asks me if I’m at least 16. Caleb arrives to nap on me while the kids nap around us. I woke him so we could get the car when the kids woke from him snoring which had me smile-laugh at them.. and then wake up.

Nov 3 – I was in the park with a guy that didn’t feel like walking so I tried to put him and his two suitcases in a shopping cart but it fell over. Then I was in a post office in Germany with Mom looking at creature keychains that are missing legs.

Nov 11 – I’m sitting across the table from a famous performer who can’t stay at the same hotel as us (her local support crew) for liability reasons. Then I watch a dog push a grocery cart across a parking lot before grabbing the table and chair and tossing the performers’ free shirt on top of them in the grass to rush inside.

Dec 9 – I’m peeing in a tiny urinal when this girl sits in my lap and I pee on her back. She asks if I’m from Tampa and outside Shannon is having a laugh about it.

Dec 13 – On an adventure jumping to rocks over water and still having to swim, crashing through trees in a van and watching a guy hanging by his leg from a tree. Had a burger that night and then joined the guys on the couch, sitting next to Ryan’s dad with Caleb across from me. Fallon was there supplying guys with clean shirts and we got to spend one night together before we’d have to split up again in the morning.

Dec 16 – Caleb and I find our way to the third floor of a restaurant in the rain in Asia and somehow order the monkey that comes out like a nutcracker with my breakfast buffet of a plate – black beans, corn, cottage cheese. I give Caleb the foot, smaller than my thumb, and watch as he tries not to puke it up on the table.

Dec 19 – I go to Mom’s house after not having been there for eight years. Peanut is there and Jane delivers a flier about an OK-TX football team, and there’s a Time’s Up sign on the hill across from where the Randall’s used to live. Now it’s all paved and covered in buildings. I follow Barry in my car after threatening to call the police on his shenanigans. I respond to Fallon about her NAIS meeting before we turn left from the driveway.

#2 At a resort, sitting next to Caleb in a wheelchair for fun. This lady took the lift to the wrong floor and this guy asks if I’m a palm reader and then his friend offers his hands and squeezes my leg as we get up to leave. He hugs me and tries to lean in for a kiss.

Dec 20 – Jason Vorhees comes in and I run down three steps into a bathtub and turn the water on. I tell him to wait and pause so we can hear Caleb ask what his best kill was and then Jason pokes a knife through my shoe to cut my toes off. I feel like before that we were doing rehearsal but then it got real. I woke up and saw his figure, smaller than the film, and jumped into Caleb who only woke enough to let Sparky under the covers.

#2 I paid for a search-scare Halloween event in a giant mall and go to an unassuming sales office and then wait in line. Caleb passes me with a cart or bag and I ask him where he got it – doesn’t know but I ask the staff to call my name so we can go together. I chose to go a few people behind Caleb and my group took off jumping through this inflated hole and having to take a selfie on the wall at the bottom and receive a game name (mine was Rotio) before making your way back to the blonde at the beginning. My flip flops had stuck to the stairs and slowed me down before the hole and then I jumped over a train delivering tiny boxes and derailed that. I got back too late and got a ‘drink beer till your group is done’ voucher. I’m on my way to find that when I see Caleb who lost the bag of supplies needed to play because he thought the team leader would grab them all.

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Thanks for the Recommendation


I bought the tickets a week ago based on Dad’s opinion of the documentary, They Will Not Grow Old, produced and directed by Peter Jackson, with footage and materials from the BBC, Imperial War Museum, the veterans of WWI, and all the artists of their field to bring this significant piece of our world history to life.

We find our seats in the perfect middle with five minutes to spare. The room we’re in seats 86 and about 50 of those are full. I ask the man next to me to move one seat over so Caleb can have his seat and make room for a couple on the other side. The tension is high and the shhh’s would remind you of a 3rd-grade classroom.

Being the youngest ones in there, and the only ones without gray hair, I thought it would be funny to say, “Children, please settle down,” but I didn’t want to interrupt the film either. There were no kids, phones, or coughs. The audience was very respectful and in as much awe as we were with the collective gasp when the color was introduced.

I appreciate the viewpoint from an ordinary soldier joining three years before he was legally allowed to because everyone was doing it — and boys did what they were told back then. Having spent such a short time in the military myself, but never seeing battle, I still know how easy I had it compared to these guys hiking miles in the trenches.

The veterans go into details of their day-to-day — using a toothbrush to clean their uniform buttons instead of their teeth, sharing a stick as a seat over a latrine (and the horrendous aftermath when it breaks when you only have one uniform), and eating plum-apple jam on biscuits and drinking petrol flavored tea.

Not every moment was rainbows while they were away from home. They killed rats that ate their friends before they could bury them, stuck their faces in urine to escape the mustard gas, had their feet amputated from frozen muddy trench living, and shared their booze with the dying enemy before collecting prisoners.

The captured Germans were put on stretcher duty and then their watches were taken, such is war, but they got along well when they weren’t shooting each other. The incorporation of the posters and magazines from 1914-18 helped complete this story of life in the trenches and how the war was viewed back home.

The coloring of the film added humanity and a renewed interest in the history that my great-great-grandparents lived through. I felt like an excited child in school learning about puttees (wraps for the lower legs that helped with marching) and seeing cannons in action, but the mood in the room changed when the blood was shown on-screen.

I could’ve watched for another 100 or 1,000 minutes, as that would be only one-sixth of the total footage; some being the fourth generation to help preserve the film it was hand cranked on using a Moy & Bastie or a De Vry camera. Peter also went through 600 hours of veterans interviews and his collection of 200 magazines to make this film a reality.

The restored footage made it easier to zoom in for a more modern storytelling effect and Peter hired lip readers, tracked down soldier locations for voice accuracy, created the sound effects using historical items (or those close to their likeness), and went back to the Western Front for color accuracy — all in three years.

We were able to stay in the time period just a moment longer when a few of the women from the audience sung along to “Mademoiselle from Armentières” playing during the credits. This brings their childhood stories to life in a way I don’t understand but that I can appreciate. Thanks for the recommendation Dad.

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Twelve Days of Christmas



majority of my Hawkings students


First: Jumping for Cobbler
I gifted Caleb one tin of mini Altoids and read on the couch with Sparky in my lap enjoying the sun coming through the window while Caleb prepped the pears.

At work, I had the kids doing burpees, jumping jacks, and jumping rope 150 times for one class and 300 for the other before free-play.

Caleb tried to find a restaurant to go to but we mixed green salad with orzo salad for dinner and had dessert… twice.

We watched the neighbor’s kids, three of them sleeping, and played Google trivia with her oldest while Fallon dealt with Ryan’s flooded car.


Second: Nutcracker in the Afternoon
Caleb got us free tickets to the 2 o’clock show. We arrived 15 minutes early and found our seats on the side balcony left of the stage. It’s a toddler-friendly event, but the parents are worse with the chatter, selfies, and crinkly wrappers.

I appreciate the young talent and wouldn’t have minded trying ballet or other dance styles as a child — then I think about their feet. Girls are allowed to start wearing pointe shoes, an idea introduced in 1832, around 11 years old and will develop corns, calluses, blisters, fractures, sprains, and more as they continue their career.

On the way to the theater, a guy stopped in the middle of the crosswalk to share his free donuts with us from Donut Bar because they were closing for the day. His wife ushered us out of the street and I picked the one with glitter. Caleb was confused as to how I could respond to how delicious the donuts looked before the box was opened.

This marks two things off my bucket list — getting Caleb to the ballet and looking like I made out with a unicorn when I walk in. The best part of the show was the clapping audience to help cover the other crowd commotion and keep them focused on the magic of the music, movement, and materials that go into what they’re watching.

The soundtrack created by Pyotr Tchaikovsky was first performed in 1892, the dancers have likely been practicing for about 15 years, and pointe shoes might not last the performance (and cost over $16,000 per season at $80 each), especially if it’s “Swan Lake,” which is the most painful from running tiptoe on the spot.

I gifted Caleb two candles and he made a turtle-dove cheesecake.

Third: French
We bought a manual pepper grinder and I made a midterm for the seventh graders while Caleb made French onion soup. He was gifted three bars of soap.

Fourth: Sugar-Free
We watched a different version of the Nutcracker performed by the New York Ballet and Sparky had his fourth seizure. We walked him for 40 minutes and then Caleb was gifted four packs of gum.


Fifth: Golden
Sparky got one golden ring (bone). I cleaned up the yard and uncluttered inside.

We talk about soccer, stumbling, and snacks with the neighbors and then go in Ryan’s new car, a Toyota RAV4, to the store for sugar, butter, and potatoes.

Caleb bakes his second batch of biscuits this week while I learn that my calf is only 1.5 inches bigger than my neck while looking at an ostrich, the only two-toed bird.


Sixth: Half is Three
I gifted Caleb six chocolate cookies. I scanned pictures and letters from Mom into a post.

I helped Caleb with his quilt so he could give me crap about my unfinished socks. We got Christmas cards from the mayor of San Diego, the dogs’ vet office, and Aunt Lorraine.

Seventh: Snoring Sleep
I spent the morning working out in the bedroom because I didn’t feel like putting on pants until it was time to take Sparky out for his daily walk.

I have a productive conversation with Dad and use his critiques to help rewrite my Busch Gardens post. I get distracted by travel plans, sugar cookies, a Guinness World Records challenge, some quilting, shopping for icing and ribbon, and getting a burrito for dinner, but I was able to read Oregon Coast – Day 8 by Dad; one of my favorite posts.

Caleb and I got to put on facemasks together with a liquid that ran down our chins and made my face red after 19 minutes; he told me to leave it on for 15-20. Then we took 2.5mg of melatonin that’s currently helping him snore away.


palm frond art from FL and HI and childhood roses from Germany

Eighth: Diving into Grades
Caleb gets his diving gear to match what I got a week ago — a pink Seaside Elite mesh bag, an Aqua Lung Mikron yoke regulator, an XS Scuba pressure gauge/compass, a Zena BCD with a floral panel, a blue XS Scuba BC hanger, a yellow Zeagle Octo-Z II, and an Aqua Lung Traveler 50 regulator bag — but in yellow and black.

I debate putting these details in except that it makes for a good reference point as we continue our diving journey. We started out with a snorkeling kit from Wal-Mart and then bought a better mask (ScubaPro Crystal Vu w/purge) and fins (Aqua Lung Shot FX) with a shorty wetsuit (Aqua Lung Sport 3mm) for me and eventually a full Henderson Thermoprene 7mm too.

We’ll stick with the Aqua Lung brand for boots and gloves (two pairs for me), a dive watch (Suunto D4i), and then buy flashlights, a safety knife, a surface marker, and we already had the GoPro. Depending on your frequency of diving, and the cost of traveling, getting your own gear is definitely worth it as we’ve got 47 dives in 2.5 years.

I donated two bags of clothes, books, and other items and organized a bunch of papers so I could recycle old homework and find the boat deed before work. I administer the midterm I made, with some of the boss’s edits, and am told to allow the students an hour.

They’re sitting, mostly quietly, until they hand in their test and I release them outside for free time. I was sad to see that the class I wasn’t in had kids eating gummy pizza, playing with goo, and leaving their tests blank. About half were given extra credit for the review they did in class last week and even with those points still failed.


Ninth: White Elephant
I went shopping with Fallon for disposable pans, ingredients, and craft ideas for the kids — cookies, necklaces, and ornaments (that some adults decorated too).

Sparky and Zeus got to walk together before the party. We brought homemade potato salad and cinnamon rolls.

Caleb got a Refinery wooden 4 in-a-row game and an over-the-shoulder 6-pack cooler tube, that he can use for frisbee golf, at the annual Christmas party gift exchange; a tradition I could get used to. I brought home a teal 12 oz stemless tumbler.


Tenth: Leftovers
I slept in and took a nap in the afternoon. I walked Sparky and then myself to digest all of the bow tie pasta, potato salad, and snickerdoodle cookies.

I finished reading The Charge by Brendon Burchard and am working my way back through it to answer the questions about goals, challenges, and skill development.

Eleventh: A Bike Ride
I posted about Mom’s high school graduation and went for a bike ride towards the Tijuana River Valley Regional Park, along the beach going north to the new base gate, and around neighborhoods with Caleb before coming home.


Twelfth: All About Mom
I scanned pictures of Mom when I wasn’t eating, walking, showering, or talking.

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